As a writer, sometimes I get asked where my ideas come from. As I write fantasy, especially about dragons, I can understand the question comes from. How on earth can you relate what happens in today’s world to a high fantasy setting?
We went to Moaning Caverns in Northern California last weekend. A princeling (3 years old), the Duke of Dyspraxia (at 6 years old), Linda and myself. She’d commented before that she always had wanted to go—and I had as well.
In the parking lot, the Duke of Dyspraxia fell down and skinned his knees. We hadn’t even gone ten steps yet. Whew! That’s out of the way!
So we wait around, waiting to go down into the cave. Down should be easy. Down is ALWAYS easier than up.
In areas I didn’t think I’d fit (I’m a big girl, both tall and extra fluffy). The first stair case is close, rock walls closing in on you both from the sides and from above. The wooden steps have a little give in them and were, well… only the first part.
Then the unthinkable happened. We were at the head of the line of people trooping down the stairs. Princeling first, then Linda, then Duke of Dyspraxia, then myself. And the princeling, the one we were not concerned about falling— fell. Linda saw her baby falling, and lets be honest here. There’s no room for error when the cavern floor is 165 feet below the surface of the earth.
I hope I never witness that sort of stark terror again.
He slid ten feet before she snatched him up.
He was carried most of the rest of the way.
Finally we got off the wooden stairs and onto a platform. And you learn it’s only the first portion of the trip. Legs are noodling, breathings getting a little different, and it’s warm. And humid.
The next portion of our journey was to be taken on a spiral staircase. Just in case you’re wondering, there are no nuts and bolts in it. It is all welded together and fitted into place and has been there since the 1920’s or something. It was built using scrap metal from one of the World War I battleships. You can see air through the slices of steps going down.
The boys were sandwiched between us this time.
If you look out into the cave as you’re descending, it’s extremely easy to get disoriented. The points of reference make no sense if you’ve never been down there before. If you’re afraid of heights, just look at the center pole.
Then you get to the bottom (finally!), huffing and puffing, legs noodling, knees giving out….
To recap: To get down into the cavern, we have been claustrophobically close to rock walls creeping in, watched as someone damn near slid off the face of the earth (a child. A child you love and who calls you auntie and you love to pieces). Then you’ve decended the spiral staircase into the underbelly of the world.
And then you arrive.
And think “Hey, it’s really nice down here. Maybe we don’t need to climb back up. Because, you know, my legs don’t work anymore.”
The cave itself is gorgeous. A small pool with baby blue water was on one side. The ceiling was higher and grander than any cathedral (although now I know where the impulse comes from—God’s artistry will top them all). The features in the walls themselves—I’m not sure if they are from the dynamite blasting, nature, or someone wanting to make a little extra cash. The rocks had faces== dragons, a hippo butt, a shark, Winnie the Pooh… As if they were trying to escape the primordeal ooze of the earth’s core. Or perhaps an evil magician had trapped them? Or were they the guardians of the cave? And the angel’s wings, high above.
The tour does what they call “total darkness”. Turn off all the lights. It was interesting. You never think about it— but how often are we left in complete and total darkness?
The ascent was uneventful. Unless you count having to pull myself up. We took a break at the midway point. Big girl huffing and a puffing over here and burning. Oh my gawd my muscles were burning. (Note: it took five days for my legs to return to normal.)
But I did it! And I have first-hand knowledge of what it feels like to succeed at something and still feel like a total failure.
Originally, I had a much longer post planned. It is morphing into an essay about mothers and daughters. I have several short story ideas as well, just from the information above. But it’s not the going places and doing things that gives writers their ideas. It’s a way of looking at the world and seeing the possibilities. In our minds, Chocolate Factories are scrumdeliumptious and romance always wins. We see, we feel, we process and we save. It’s another form of scrapbooking, in a way. It’s taking that memory, and spreading it through several snap shots.
Speaking of which, I’m going to try and figure out posting photos on this blog. We’ll see if it works (Why oh why can i not figure this out???)
Until next time, my lovelies. I’ll be happily writing until then.